High cholesterol may seem like “middle-aged” disease, but it can be a problem for children, too, leading to high blood pressure, clogged arteries and heart disease.
Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance found in the bloodstream and in your body’s cells.
There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol. Having too much LDL can build up on artery walls, forming plaque and cause hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.
It’s important to know your child’s cholesterol levels, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol. Early detection is the key to making diet and exercise changes that could prevent heart disease later. Screening is recommended for children at risk for high cholesterol as early as age two and no later than age 10. A pediatrician can order a simple blood test. If your child’s total cholesterol is above 170 mg/dL, you should see a dietitian to get nutritional counseling. Children with acceptable cholesterol levels should be retested every three to five years.
Diet and exercise are the keys to lowering cholesterol. Encourage your child to get at least one hour of physical activity daily and eat a healthy diet.
Read food labels to limit how much cholesterol, trans fat and saturated fat your child eats.
Choose non-fat and low-fat dairy products, and stay away from solid fats. Instead, use vegetable oil and soft margarine. Limit sugary beverages and prepared baked goods. Instead, serve snacks like raw vegetables and dip, popcorn and low-fat yogurt.
Knowing the facts about cholesterol can help the entire family stay healthy. For more information, talk with your doctor or visit Centennial Medical Center’s website at www.centennialmedcenter.com.